One of the currently popular adaptations of photography defined to the digital age is HDR: High Dynamic Range. The idea is based on the fact that the human eye and brain together see much more in a scene than a photo is able to capture. There is no film vs. digital argument here since neither truly represents what is seen by the eye covering the range of bright highlights to dark shadows. Digital may often render better color but film done well will provide a wider dynamic range from bright to dark. Film also more gently grades into the bright areas of the scene, the highlights. Digital is known for blown out highlights and loss of detail in the bright areas. To the rescue is HDR digital image processing.
In a nutshell, high dynamic range photos combine several photos shot at different exposures. Three or more photos are taken of the same scene as shown in the photos below: Underexposed, Normal, Overexposed. One shot will have the details in the highlights and another will be overly bright. One shot will show details in the shadows and another will show only dark shadow.
Jackson PLaza, rear view, HDR brackets
This is the resulting HDR image after processing, correcting distortion
and crop for desired view.
Combining the multiple shots gives an HDR image. The results are not ideal and as seen on the net are often surreal and poster-like. The amount of dramatic effect is up to the photo editor or artist. Combined and edited with a subtle touch, HDR will provide a better image than a single photo could do alone and still look “realistic”. Pushed a little beyond normal will produce a striking photo, an attention getter more poster-like but acceptable when used with discretion as a lead-in or special use image for web or print use. For instance, if showing a building, what is the most effective sort of photo? Ahh…you ask what purpose is the photo serving. Yes, that is a legitimate question. The more dramatic image will catch the eye. However, if showing a building or item with the intent of accuracy in detail, backing off on the HDR processing is recommended.
The building above is processed to provide a higher range of tone and detail while still honest to the subject.
This is the HDR render of a wing of a library. Note the sky, brightness and color of grass and light in the windows.
These bracketed exposure photos used to make the HDR image contain the elements of the final image. See the sky in the darkly exp0osed photo? See the brighter window reflection and stronger plant color in the over exposed photo on the right? These elements would not show in a single normally exposed photo, the center photo above.
The basic rule we follow at Thomas Haynes Commercial Photography is use an image to catch the eye and encourage the visitor to spend more time with your information. This basic principle applies to descriptive brochures, web sites, in-house and publicity graphics and certainly sales efforts such as real estate listings. HDR is one of the tools to use when appropriate to attain this goal.
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We just returned from a short drive to find a few subjects for HDR images and have spent time editing what we got. This is not a fast process. The photos here are the results of that run to town. In some cases differences are subtle and in that is value—in that you catch the eye of the the viewer. What is seen is more content than the single photo can present.
We have mentioned "overdone" and in fairness to that.. here is one for drama! Including a strong dominating presence to the building caused by lens distortion. Obviously too overdone and tweaked for an accurate view of the building, this photo could have a place on a brochure or as a artful view..maybe. This is typical of many HDR images on the web... surreal. We can do drama but generally find it "too much" and not the wisest choice for marketing. We are here to provide you the best we can and use good judgment in the process. Enjoy this last one!
ThomasHaynesPhotoshoot Works out of Clinton, Tennessee
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